Themes: / military sci-fi / slavery /
The Star Kingdom’s ally, Erewhon, is growing increasingly restive in the alliance because the new High Ridge regime ignores its needs. Add to that the longstanding problem of a slave labor planet controlled by hostile Mesans in Erewhon’s stellar back yard, a problem which High Ridge also ignores. Finally, the recent assassination of the Solarian League’s most prominent voice of public conscience indicates the growing danger of political instability in the League – which is also close to Erewhon. In desperation, Queen Elizabeth tries to defuse the situation by sending a private mission to Erewhon led by Captain Zilwicki, accompanied by one of her nieces. When they arrive on Erewhon, however, Manticore’s most capable agent and one of its princesses find themselves in a mess. Not only do they encounter one of the Republic of Haven’s most capable agents – Victor Cachat – but they also discover that the Solarian League’s military delegation seems up to its neck in skullduggery. And, just to put the icing on the cake, the radical freed slave organization, the Audubon Ballroom, is also on the scene – led by its most notorious killer, Jeremy X.
Multiple articulated segments valiantly strive to give shape to this story. At times they move in joint cooperation and at others, they do not. This coauthored book is the first in what is being labeled the “Honorverse” series. It is said that it will launch an exciting new telling that… I’m sure you get the idea, or at least the idea that the publishers and Weber might wish you to have. The story appears simple at the surface. We encounter issues of slavery, the incessant pursuit of power, ill-conceived notions of political philosophy, religious ranting, and a whole lot of exposition. Yes, this seems simple, right? And to some degree it is. But a recipe merely listing the ingredients does not guarantee a tasty delight on the tongue. Or in this case, the literary palate. David Weber is a talented writer. Unfortunately Weber’s skill is not on display in this book.
First off, I don’t like writing reviews wherein I simply dump on an author’s book. It is easy to criticize something and all too often we tend to focus on the negative more than the positive. As I indicated, David Weber is a gifted writer in the military science fiction genre. His first volume of the Honor Harrington series On Basilisk Station is a fine read. But this book lacks Weber’s eye for craft. The sheer tonnage of exposition in this book is staggering. I’m not a fan of the information-dump, and I am especially not a fan when you are strapped down and force-fed it until your eyes glaze over. Flint and Weber’s ability to provide the reader with a strong foundational understanding of the rationale behind all character and political motivation is stunning. In many ways this book has the feel and tonality of a history book. You learn who did what and then why. This knowledge then is the underlying cause for the action of a character that you will now be told about. And perhaps this is my core issue. I felt as if this story was told to me and not shown. If this had been a lecture about lectures, it would have been more interesting than this book. Aside from massive droughts of exposition, flat characters, and shoddy dialogue, come the issue of adverbs. If you are reduced to using adverbs in dialogue attribution in order to tell the reader how someone says their lines, it is up to the editor to politely ask (demand) the author to rewrite. This book is full of adverbs and awkward transitions between metaphors and similes that are rarely rendered well.
Peter Larkin serves as narrator. And while his performance is better than I’ve heard in the past, he still injects far too much drama into his reading. His interpretation of youthful characters is distracting at best and downright irritating for the most part. Larkin doesn’t fall into the pitched cadence reserved only for air traffic controllers but comes dangerously close on several occasions. If Larkin can set aside the idea of performing and just read, he’ll do well in the business.
The musical score at the beginning and end of each CD is too long, too dramatic, and distracting to the extent of making it difficult to hear the narration under the music. In this case, a little goes a long ways.
Posted by Casey Hampton.